Creating An Edible Garden
For many of us, there is a definite sense of segregation occurring in out gardens. The flower bed and shrub border is created for visual esthetics, eye candy. Vegetables and herbs are relegated to the square plot at the back corner of the yard and that’s the way it’s supposed to be…right? Wrong! Combining vegetables, flowers and fruit has been around for centuries dating back to Medieval times! If you are going to care for your garden and plants within, wouldn’t it be nice to have some of them pay the rent?
Contrary to popular belief, most edibles do not require special soil. A good well draining humic soil can be used for most of your beds. Many herbs can also do well in moderately dry or sandy soil. Neutral ph is great for many edibles, perennials and flowers. Acidic soil can also be home to a number of edibles, Blueberries and Alpine Strawberries, Lingonberries and Evergreen Huckleberries are a few acid-lovers that can grow happily a alongside your Rhododendrons. Many Currants, Apples, and Lettuces among others can grow in slightly Alkaline conditions. Good soil and good drainage are the building blocks of any garden. Compost is gold! Top dress each year with good compost, or well rotted manures.
There are great companion planting books and resources at your local library or on the internet. Some plants do better alongside others. Some repel insects or disease, some encourage pollinating insects, and some deeply rooted plants bring up some subsoil nutrients etc. Some examples of companion planting: Garlic or Chives planted beside Roses are thought to protect them from Black Spot, Mildew and Aphids, Petunias help protect Beans from Beetles, Yarrow is known to enhance the insect resistance of neighboring plants.
When considering trees for your garden think fruit and nuts! Most fruit trees are grafted on to dwarf and semi dwarf rootstocks. Fruit trees can be grown as traditionally shaped small shade trees, or can be espaliered along fences, walls etc. There are also a number of other edible options, here is a list of a few edibles you may wish to consider as yard trees:
Cedrella sinensis – new leaves have a mild onion flavour and can be picked and used in salads or stir-frys
Cornus mas – Cornelian Dogwood - wonderful bright red fruits, great for jams and jellies
Crabapple – there are many fruiting varieties such as Dolgo available
Fagus sylvatica – Beech - you need two to make beech nuts
Peaches – Frost is a great curl –resistant variety
Evergreen Huckleberry - ‘Thunderbird’ variety developed by UBC
Raspberry – black, red and yellow varieties are available
Rose – Hansa is a lovely variety with large rosehips great fresh or in preserves
Viburnum trilobum – Highbush Cranberry – great in preserves
Zizyphus jujuba – you need two different varieties for best pollination Lang and Li are good varieties
Here are a couple of attractive and edible options for your arbor, trellis or fence. Remember you can mix and match your vines…you can plant your Clematis with Scarlet Runner Beans or add Grapes with your Akebia climber.
Beans – Scarlet runner beans are a very attractive climber
Grapes – Fast growing vine for an arbor or chain link fence
Kiwis – there are fuzzy and fuzzless varieties available
The Flower Garden:
Edibles can be used in the flower garden as accents, consider using red lettuce as an edging plant. Swiss Chard is a lovely middle of the border plant especially the ‘Bright Lights’ variety. Bronze fennel is tall delicate looking back of the border plant. There are a number of amazing Thyme varieties for edging and rockeries. Purple leaved sage is a great evergreen for the cottage garden. Rhubarb is a lovely bold architectural plant. Lavender makes a great hedge and really adds elegance to lemonade. There is such a dizzying array of edibles for the flower garden! Consider wandering down the herb or vegetable aisle when looking for a new plant for the flower border or container garden.